Carsten Höller: Decision
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The artist who put participation into art gets his first UK retrospective before the Hayward closes for renovation.
Carsten Höller’s art requires you to use your hands quite a lot. Whether it’s finding your way through pitch-black metal corridors from the entrance to the lower gallery; gripping on to the handrail of a flying machine that soars over Waterloo Bridge; attempting to get inside a giant die; taking a red and white pill that may or may not be a placebo or getting yourself in position before you whoosh down a slide upon exiting the show.
Hands aside, the key element in the German-Belgian artist’s survey is decision-making, hence the exhibition’s title. From the moment you step into the gallery’s foyer, Höller puts us through our paces by offering numerous choices. So does it matter if you pick entrance A or entrance B into the show? Or take the left flying machine as oppose to the right flying machine? Yes and no, as ultimately everyone is going to have a different experience regardless of what they pick. It’s the fact that we have to choose. Höller disturbs our expectations by using perception-altering effects.
For those less willing to get strapped into a flying machine – which I highly recommend – fortunately Höller isn’t all about the spectacle and merely observing is as active as partaking. Other works play with duplicate scenarios, like a series of TV monitors on which seven sets of twins address one another, or the competition between two rival music groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo played out over two film projections.
This alternating between direct engagement and composed contemplation is what ripples through the show. It doesn’t matter that some of the propositions don’t quite work, like the ‘Pinocchio Effect’ that’s supposed to make your nose grow or compress: mine did neither. Höller urges us to consider alternative possibilities. I mean, what would it be like if we could all leave work via a slide? We’d surely exit the office with a smile on our face.
READ OUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 'DECISION' HERE
Extended opening hours for the last few days of the exhibition:
Thu, Fri 11am-10pm; Sat, Sun 10am-10pm.